Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Problem with Storyboards

Reading an article about storyboards in the Children Youth and Media newsletter underlined my disappointment in the poor quality of some of the storyboards being produced by many of our older students. Their final project in ICT is to make an animated film. The example (from the newsletter) below shows a good deal more sophistication than some of the examples I've been offered today - by students 3 years older...
Now, I know the end of term is coming and I know these students will be leaving . I also know the temptation to start in on the plasticene modelling makes the planning process pale a little in comparison. But these students have done shot-by-shot analysis of framing and camera angles and they have storyboarded short clips from commercial films, as well as using them to plan their own short films. They have made storyboards using paper and pencil and a range of software. Yet still, without continuous nagging they'll produce storyboards with full-length, identikit stickmen that communicate nothing of the visual language they have been able to analyse - and which they interpret most evenings...
The only conclusion I can come to is that it's just not natural to them any more. Storyboarding begins when children come to school. They draw pictures, tell their teachers what they represent and perhaps copy the teacher's model caption underneath. But as soon as many teachers can connive it, the pictures become confined to a treat, for use when they've finished the real work of communication - the writing. The notion of of using pictures to convey narrative, so easily becomes something lost in their infant past. I'm exaggerating a bit of course. But the respect visual literacy receives from the English National Curriculum is most notable by its absence.

Many Some professional directors do not make storyboards, though most animators do. So why bother? Why not just get on with it? Simply because a storyboard is a shared vision of the film. And, in my experience, students who make the best storyboards also make the best films because they have a created a vision to fulfill in film.

Take a look, if you can, at some of Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit storyboard books - you can still buy them secondhand from Amazon (click here or here). Look carefully and you will see a subtlety of communication which bears comparison with the very best children's literature.
In fact... I think I might just give a page or two of them  as a comprehension test - Ha! That'll learn' em...


We stand before a challenge that we must overcome, which is to achieve the systematic implantation of Media Literacy from the very first years of education. This would contribute to the development of communicative competencies in citizens in a society that navigates more and more with the new information and communication technologies. 
 Jacqueline S√°nchez Carrero